Growing in Gospel-Rooted Community: What Do I Do When I’m Offended

Have you ever been in a conversation in which someone said something, and you thought, “I can’t believe she said that!” All of a sudden, your heart starts to race and frustration grows within you. You react by either making a harsh statement in the moment or retreating, vowing never to talk to that person again. After a few days pass, your emotions settle, and you don’t quite understand why you got so worked up over what was said. You think, why did that offend me? Why am I so easily offended?

It seems that, everywhere you look, people are easily offended by the strangest things. Of course, sin offends; but, I’m talking about all the other offenses that are not sinful. It could be a Republican offending a Democrat by his view of border security. It could be a Democrat offending a Republican because of how she wants to help the poor. People feel offended by someone leaving their bright lights on too long as they approach another car at night. When someone cuts the grass past 8:00 p.m., others may feel offended. People feel offended when they see opinions that are contrary to their own on social media.

This happens in the church too. Someone may feel offended when the decorating committee decides to remove the old plaques that had hung in the fellowship hall for the last 32 years, which recognized everyone who gave to the building campaign back in 1992. Church people may feel offended because a fellow church member took their usual seat. Sometimes church people feel offended when the pastor makes a different decision than they would have, or if he shares an illustration that confronts some sin in their lives.

Why are we so easily offended? 

It is important to recognize that our offendability is often in some way proportionate to a lack of security in Jesus. Yep, that’s right! People are easily offended because of a lack of security in Christ. It’s a lack of gospel-rootedness.

Let me explain. When we turn from our sin and trust Jesus to be our Savior and Lord, we are given a new heart with a new identity. Our identity in Christ is now one of grace. In Christ, we are now children of the most high God, who are in pursuit of God’s design for our lives: to be image-bearers of God. This means that we are no longer slaves to sin, but we are slaves to righteousness in Christ. Our value, worth, and security is fully and completely rooted in Jesus and His accomplished work of the gospel. As we embrace this new identity, our security is measured by God’s sovereign, keeping grace. Ultimately, our identity in Christ provides all the security we need to be certain and sure of who we now are in Christ.

This is significant because our feelings of offense take place because of a lack of security. Often, people cling to whatever is in front of them for a sense of identity to find some perception of security. It could be financial income, opinions about an issue or topic, a political party, a job, gender and sexuality, or a plethora of other things. People do this because they are searching for their identity, but they are holding onto the wrong things to find a sense or image of identity. This is idolatry. So, when people’s idols are stepped on, squashed, or taken away by someone else, of course they will feel offended. 

It is common for people to think of being offended as victimization. “Can you believe what she said? How could you not take offense to that?” “He’s wrong; I’m offended!!” In many cases, people feel as if being offended was a wrong offense done to them, like it is someone else’s fault that we are offended. However, most of the time, our offendability is because we are not strongly rooted in the gospel. We are not looking to Christ for our true and lasting identity. Instead, we look to someone or something else for our sense of identity, and someone steps on it. So, we’re offended. Our insecurity about our identity leads to our offendability.

What should I do when I feel offended?

1. Overlook the offense, if possible.

The Bible says: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). Also, the Apostle Paul tells us that love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

2. Consider the relational context.

Why would we bring any offense up to anyone? We only do so for the good of the relationship. If someone in the church has sinned against you, Jesus instructs us to go to that person, first one-on-one. If he does not listen, take one or two others. If the person still refuses to listen, the situation should be brought to the church. (Matthew 18:15-20)

Remember, sin is primarily an offense against God, in much greater ways than it ever is against any of us. And, God deals with the sin in people’s lives. Either they are covered by the blood of Christ and declared forgiven and righteous, or they are exposed to the wrath of God for their sin. So, when our security is in Christ, we can (and must) forgive as Jesus commanded us. Forgiveness means to absorb the cost and to not bring up the same offense again and again.

In situations in which someone has not sinned but you still feel offended, pray, asking God to search you and know your heart (Psalm 139:23). Also, ask God to increase your sense of identity in the gospel of Christ, that your security may be deeply rooted in him. After praying, if you believe God will better your relationship with the other person by bringing up the offense, do so with humility, kindness, gentleness, love, and self-control. If this is not the case, overlook the offense.

Whether the situation is sin or not, we are not to bring up our feelings of being offended to others because of insecurities; rather, we should bring up offenses only because we seek health in our relationships.